I know why the caged horse jiggles.

I’m kind of excited.

I tried the CPAP machine again the other night and took it off after a few hours of it driving me bananas. I thought it was hopeless, but, I read up on people’s experiences a bit more and it seems everyone has a difficult time adapting and the best advice is to go in with a positive attiutude… So, I tried again. This time with a smile. It was still a nightmare. Mine is a body that needs to move in the night. I’m in a lot of pain when I stay in one position, so I toss and turn quite a bit. EVERY time I moved, the mask sprung a leak and I had to come awake to adjust it. It doesn’t fit the bridge of my nose, so I have a band aid and a wad of toilet paper holding in the air at the top of the mask. The band aid fell off three times and I kept getting up and getting progressively bigger, stronger ones. I felt like I woke up 100 times when my mouth dropped open and the air filled my cheeks and made them flutter like a skydiver. I woke up a few times with pains in my belly from trapped gas and air… HOWEVER, look at my Zeo graph from last night:

If you’ll recall, my graphs have a tendency to look like this one ~ the top line being “W” for “Wake”:

So, I’m kind of excited. Maybe I was awake a lot between 11pm and 3am (as you can see, the first picture only spans 2am to 10am and I turned out the light at around 11pm) and I woke up briefly when I moved in the night, but not enough to count on the graph… And maybe, just maybe, the CPAP stopped the constant waking from the apnea that I’m usually not consciously aware of, but which affects me throughout my waking life…

In the last few weeks, I finally got some abnormal tests, which shouldn’t make me happy, but it DOES. I have sleep apnea ~ I was waking up 49 times an hour! ~ I have low zinc and iron, I have no good bacteria in my gut (thank god no one put me on antibiotics; that could be pretty dangerous). There are some natural interventions that might actually make me feel much better.

This morning, my eyes are blood shot and my neck is killing me and my back is very stiff from trying not to move in the night, but I’m hopeful. I’ve also felt stronger in the last week since my big headache went away (I still have a daily headache, but it is my normal, manageable one). It’s interesting ~ I’m in the same physical pain, I’m being hit by the same ol’ exhaustion, but I’ve been able to keep up with my stretches without injury (I’m being very careful to take a hot shower or bath before stretching so my muscles are warm)… I’ve been able to eat rather than feeling too fluish to be bothered… I’ve been able to watch a movie and laugh… Each of the last 4 days I’ve taken over 2,000 steps. By comparison, when I had my headache it was more like 500 and, in the weeks before the headache, it was 1,000-1,500. I’ve been jiggling my legs again. I know that sounds weird, but I was always a jiggler while sitting or watching TV ~ my feet would be moving ceaselessly or my knee would be bobbing up and down. It always distracted my husband. I was the girl in the movie theatre that was making your seat shake from down the row. That movement totally went away with the exhaustion. I sit, bricked, like a lump of concrete, no interaction, barely able to turn my head or answer a question. Lately, I’ve noticed the jiggles return. I told my acupuncturist that I felt like a racehorse in the cage before they go down the track. Like I want to sprint but I’m caged and antsy. I know why the caged horse jiggles.


What’s gone wrong in your system?

I got the results of my sleep study test yesterday. I spend about 15% of my night in deep and REM sleep and these should be around 20%. Also, I have a form of sleep apnea. There are three different kinds (I can’t remember the names): the most severe kind is when you stop breathing for a full ten seconds or more ~ I don’t have this. The second kind is when your throat relaxes to the point that you are not getting enough air, but it is a partial restriction ~ not full apnea. And the last kind is when this throat closing causes your brain to wake up to rectify the situation. I have the latter two. He said my brain is waking up an average of 49 times an hour. This has me in an aroused, wake state a lot, obviously, and it also causes my sleep cycles to be interrupted, so, even if 15% of my sleep is deep, it’s broken up throughout the night, which isn’t as restorative. So, I get to use a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine! Seriously, I’m going to sleep with the Zeo headband, a mouth guard and a face mask? Wtf? That’s a pretty sight. But, please god, let it help me feel marginally better.

He also said, “Have you had your ferritin level checked?” “Yes, two months ago. It’s in your computer.” He looked it up: “Oh, it’s low. You should be on a supplement ~ that’ll help you feel less fatigued.”

Now, let me tell you how much this pisses me off. The crappy chronic fatigue clinic ordered this test along with zinc (which is also low). The results came back two months ago and nobody called to tell me what it meant. My regular GP saw the result of the ferritin, also, and didn’t tell me to do anything about it. Mine is low and I don’t have a period. If I had a period, it would be far lower, the sleep doctor said. So, I could have had TWO MONTHS OF SUPPLEMENTS UNDER MY BELT BY NOW IF SOMEONE HAD JUST REVIEWED THE RESULTS AND CALLED ME. I am raging mad! This has happened at every single step along the way this year. Nobody communicates with the patient. Actually, the front desk people do ~ schedulers etc. ~ they’ve been pretty good. And maybe one or two nurses. But is there a doctor out there that says, “I am testing you for X, Y, Z and, when I get the results, I will call you and explain them. I don’t think you have A, B, C and this is why:…”?? How dare they! I don’t know why the ferritin has me all riled up. It’s just that he put me on a heavy-duty supplement (ferrous gluconate 648mg/day), so obviously I need it and it might make a difference. Actually, the reason I’m so annoyed is this has happened so often and can have more serious consequences. I won’t get into the details, but my husband had a test that the doctor said was negative, but we have access to our results online, so, I looked at the results and googled the test and did the math and said, “uuummm, I think this is positive, not negative.” He emailed the doctor and, sure enough: “Oh, yes, sorry, it is positive. We need to treat you for that.” Say what?! I know they’re only human and I know they’re very busy and I know the whole healthcare system is a mess and maybe the doctors are just as frustrated as we are, but what if we didn’t have access to our records? I never would have found the mistake. And that’s just one of countless mistakes. Please, everyone, be your own best advocates. Call for your test results, request copies of every test you get done, review them yourself and point out anything that looks odd. And, pay attention to any result that is in the low or high range of “normal”! Normal has never been normal for me. My TSH was in the low range of normal for years as two giant goiters grew and strangled my thyroid until it wasn’t working anymore. My ferritin was technically in the “normal” range, but the doctor said it was too low. Et cetera, et cetera, blah blah blah.

Ok, on to other stuff. WordPress shows me what internet searches led people to my blog. Yesterday, 6 out of 14 searches were for MRI info, so it makes me really happy that I expended the energy to write my tips. I hope it helped someone out there.

My wash-out period ended on Tuesday, but I haven’t added anything back in because I felt like such shite, I didn’t think I’d be able to distinguish my disease symptoms from any symptoms new foods caused. Maybe I will add rice today. The Good Doctor says we are looking for “stark sensitivities, so worsening of mood, fatigue, energy, pain.” This is really hard. I was feeling pretty good last week and then, without warning, I was a mess. If I had added rice in that day, would I think rice had caused it?

I’m back to using the light box and I’m starting acupuncture again next week. I’m going to try all the supplements again, as well as melatonin, Lyrica, and the Chinese herbs. I just don’t know in what order… I guess I have to add all the eliminated foods back in before I start anything else to gauge my reactions… This is so tedious and time-consuming. I used to love Thanksgiving and Christmas and now I don’t get to celebrate at all. I can’t eat most of the food, I have no energy to do special preparations and, even if I did, there’s no point in planning something when the activity and/or socialising will just cause me to crash. Wow, this life sucks.

On a lighter note, have I mentioned how grateful I am for my husband? He drives me to my appointments, takes the dogs to the park, fixes our roof, landscapes the garden, hoovers, cooks dinner, sprays IcyHot on my back and, above all, keeps a positive attitude.

Good times gone, and you missed them
What’s gone wrong in your system?
Things they bounce like a Spalding
What’d you think, did you miss your calling?

It’s so free, this kind of feeling
It’s like life, it’s so appealing
When you’ve got so much to say
It’s called gratitude, and that’s right

Good times gone, but you feed it
Hate’s grown strong, you feel you need it
Just one thing, do you know you?
What you think that the world owes you?

What’s gonna set you free?
Look inside and you’ll see:
When you’ve got so much to say
It’s called gratitude, and that’s right

LDN Day 22…God is music.

I knew I should have posted something last night while I was feeling good… Yes, I dared to say good. I was dizzy and my neck hurt and my nose and eyes were driving me nuts blah blah blah, but, there was this moment at the dog park where I caught myself almost skipping, looking at the sunlight and glimpses of blue sky coming through the trees, humming along to music on my headphones, and SMILING. I felt normal. I felt joy. I felt hope. I thought, for the thousandth time, Maybe things have shifted. Maybe this is the beginning of the end of my affliction. Maybe I’ll be able to get up tomorrow and write, “I’m getting better, I slept well, I have hope for a future and career. Hooray for LDN and supplements and…life!”

Well, I’m not feeling so great this morning, of course. I actually had night sweats last night for the first time in weeks. After 10 hours in bed, my Zeo tells me I got exactly 6 hours sleep. I woke up with a bad headache, my muscles hurt, I’m really grumpy and I am the farthest thing from refreshed, but I have this leftover glow from yesterday. It’s like waking up with a really bad hangover, but knowing that you spent the night drinking with a wonderful guy and can’t wait to do it again.

I pray that this upward trajectory continues. I have to stop therapy because of money concerns and my insurance on massage therapy has run out. The low-dose naltrexone is $60/month (not covered by insurance, of course) and I want to be able to afford it for a while longer. I still haven’t finished the laundry I vowed to complete days ago ~ that will happen today ~ but I tidied the house and made oat bars yesterday (details on my next diet post), so those small things make me feel accomplished.

My husband went to a wedding yesterday without me. It wound up being a huge reunion of his late father’s family. I would have loved to have gone and met everyone. I feel like a ghost, like a figment of his imagination. I spent so many years pouring myself into work and now, when I have the time to pour myself into friends and family, I’m physically unable to participate. Cruel joke. Dear Friends and Family: I am participating from afar. I look at every picture, I read every email, I look at all Facebook posts, I cherish every piece of mail. If I don’t reply enough or call enough or show up enough, please know that YOU are the most important thing to me. You all keep me going, keep me hopeful, keep me grateful and compassionate, and allow me to meditate on what is truly important.

Finally, I am grateful for music. This year, whenever I have found myself lost in some good feeling, inevitably, I have my headphones on…

As the great Kurt Vonnegut said:

If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:
The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.

LDN Day 19… My visit to the sleep specialists.

Today I had the 4th (allopathic) doctor in a month bemusedly tell me there is no point in taking naltrexone. She shook her head and, with a quizzical look, said, “We don’t prescribe it – no doctor I know prescribes it. It was used in the past to help drug attacks, but I don’t understand what naturopaths are doing with it now. If you’re worried about taking drugs, melatonin is far, far safer than naltrexone.” Of course I know this. I know it’s not FDA approved, I know most doctors don’t prescribe it, I know it is a long- shot, but there are so many amazing stories out there, I felt like I had nothing to lose. Although, it’s true that I really have nothing to report except losing sleep, gaining weight and being constipated. The dizziness, sadness, fatigue, muscle pain, and all the rest of it seems to be the same.

Today was my sleep study consultation at the medical center. Luckily, these people actually seemed to be experts — it was a much better experience than the chronic fatigue circus. Although, it was still like pulling teeth to get information. The woman in the front office made a good point when I bitched to her about how doctors treat patients like they have an IQ of 50. She said that they have so many patients from different cultural backgrounds or with limited English or with limited education that doctors usually do dumb everything down. It was a good point. It’d be nice if they could really quickly read their client and adapt their communication and level of engagement, but I guess they leave that to the savvy bartenders and servers out there (do NOT underestimate what sort of skill is needed to be in the service industry — not only because of the patience, stamina, intelligence, and highly sophisticated organisational skills needed, but mostly because of the fine-tuned social tact and interpersonal communication skills that are necessary. In short, you have to be charming, perceptive, intuitive, smooth, have street smarts and be able to adapt to any situation, as well as all the physical and mathematical stuff. When a nuclear bomb decimates humanity, it’ll be the intelligent restaurant workers that are walking down The Road).

Anyway, today I had my sleep study consultation (by the way, it took me two full hours to fill out the paperwork for the appointment. Managing a health problem is a full-time job. Maybe I should make that my next career: managing the appointments, pills, paperwork, test results, Rx refills etc. for people. Problem is, no one with medical problems and medical bills can afford help…). They want me to definitely do the overnight sleep study because my insomnia is “quite complicated”. I don’t fit into the typical profile for someone that has sleep problems (don’t drink, smoke or do drugs, not overweight, not very old, don’t have any of the typical health problems, don’t have kids, don’t watch tv in the bedroom, don’t even have a job anymore). They gave me advice on how to change my lifestyle:

Don’t exercise or eat within three hours of sleep.
No tv or computer in the bedroom.
If you can’t sleep, get up — whether that’s at night or in the morning.
Don’t nap during the day.
No caffeine or alcohol in the evening.
Don’t read your book in bed.

Most of this is obvious and I already know. But, my problem is, if I go to bed only when I am so exhausted I feel like I must sleep, then I will either be in bed all day/night or I’ll never be in bed. I always feel like I could fall asleep and I always do, but then wake up half an hour later… I can do this cycle for 12 hours. They said the sleep study would measure how often I am in deep sleep, REM etc. and I said, wait, I have a Zeo that tells me that info. Is this as sophisticated as it gets? Thankfully, they said the sleep study would also measure my heart, oxygen levels, whether I have sleep apnea, whether I snore, how much I thrash about and the brain monitoring shows much more than the Zeo. They said, even though it may feel like I wake up 16 times a night, my brain might actually be so active that it is more like hundreds of times a night in terms of sleep quality. Also, if I happen to sleep like a baby when I am in the hospital, it might just be a vicious cycle of my worry about not being able to sleep causing me to not sleep. In which case, they recommend drugs. They couldn’t believe I hadn’t caved and tried sleeping pills during the last 30 years of bad sleep and, especially, the last year of nonexistent sleep.

For the last 6 nights, I have only had 6 hours sleep each night, but it honestly feels like 2. I am so tired! But I am still taking the LDN and sticking with the diet and the supplements. Tonight, I might start taking melatonin again and up the dose to 1mg. The doctor today laughed at me when I said I had been taking 0.5mg. She said, “Do you mean 5mg?” They never start anyone lower than 3mg.

The pulled muscle in my back feels better, so, my goal today is get to the dog park and finish the laundry. And meditate without falling asleep per the doc’s instructions.

Finally, I am grateful for my husband. It’s almost futile to write about it because there are no words to express the depth of my gratitude. I found the kindest, most generous, most patient, most selfless man in the world (or, at least, in MY world ;)). He has literally saved my life more times than I can count and he takes care of me in sickness and in health.

LDN Day 3…nightmare

Last night was a terrible night. I took the LDN at 9:45pm and stayed up until 11:45pm to make sure I felt okay. I still had a tight chest and a headache all day yesterday. I was so tired, but my brain was buzzing. I woke up every 20 minutes to hour the whole night. 12:05am, 12:25am, 1245am, 1:15am, 2am… Each time I looked at the clock, I couldn’t believe such a short time had passed. I had two nightmares that woke me gasping for air, turning the light on, unsure of where I was. I felt feverish the whole night, had sweats, was burning up. I took my temperature multiple times and couldn’t believe it was normal. How can I be this hot, sweaty and shaky and not have a fever? I got 7 hours sleep in the end.

This morning, I ache. I wonder how long I can stay on this drug. If it’s going to make me worse before it makes me better, can I stick with it? I was getting better in the weeks before I started LDN, I think. Now, I feel like I’ve been set back a month. My head hurts, my shoulders and back hurt. My hands are so swollen, I can’t make fists. And they hurt ~ the bones and the muscles. I am shaky, my eyes are puffy, I feel like I inhaled a cat, and I am hobbling because my muscles are so stiff. God, all I want is deep, long sleep for days in a row. It would change my life, I think. But I still don’t want to try painkillers, especially now that I am on LDN because I like to do one drug at a time. I’m not even taking melatonin or my antihistamine or my inhaler (although, I think that will change today).

I have this device called a Zeo. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to track their sleep habits. I wear a headband at night and it tells me exactly when I woke up, when I was in deep sleep, REM and light sleep. I can go back and see that the day I felt really good ~ the day I started raking LDN ~ I had had 8.5 hours sleep. Unheard of! I don’t think I’ve had that much sleep since I was a child. Or maybe since I was a drinker. Since that night, I have had a total of 19 hours sleep. In three nights. Not enough for me to feel better. Not enough for me to recover. Sometimes I think I might be able to start to cure myself if I could just sleep.